Salaries stalemate: Govt refuses to negotiate

SHARE   |   Wednesday, 19 April 2017   |   By Tobokani Rari
Salaries stalemate: Govt refuses to negotiate

A special meeting of the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) was convened on 18th April 2017 at 1400hrs at the Botswana Bureau of Standards. The purpose of the special meeting was to continue with the negotiations of the public service salaries and other conditions of service for the financial year 2016/17.

BOFEPUSU AJA compromises
At this meeting, the union party, just from the beginning, extended its hand to the employer party that it (union party) accepts the 3% that the employer party tabled on 2nd November 2016. The union party further indicated that as a consequence of the gesture to compromise and accept the 3%; the council should not waste time and deliberate on each and every item on agenda. The union party indicated that, they compromise to accept the 3% in view of the fact that the public service is currently deeply divided and polarised owing to differential treatment with the 3% issue, and as such, it (union party) endeavours to act in the interest of the nation to bring harmony, peace, stability and sanity within the public Service.

Govt rejects the compromise
The employer party on the other hand, could not embrace the acceptance of the 3% by the union party, but instead wanted the agenda to be changed to include an item on the compliance to the PSBC constitution. Though the union party was not averse to the discussion of the item, it indicated that the item could not be accepted owing to the fact that the meeting was special and specifically convened to continue the discussions on the 2016/17 Salary Negotiations and as such a council meeting to deal with issues of compliance can be convened at any time. In spite of the fact that the Secretariat indicated that the Trade Union party has since complied with all the requirements of the constitution in terms of payment of its dues and submission of membership figures, the employer insisted that they would not continue with the special meeting if the issue of constitutional compliance was not included in the agenda. The Trade Union Party further reasoned that even if there was no compliance on the part of the trade union party, which is not the case, the procedure would have to be followed for the council to arrive at a decision that its (trade union party) membership of the PSBC of should be terminated, hence refusing to execute the PSBC duties is tantamount to closing down the council. The Trade Union party further clarified that until such a decision has been made by council, any party to the council remains legitimately admitted and the council remains competent to transact the business of council in all matters including among others matters of salary negotiations. The employer party stuck to its guns and indicated that they would not continue with the salary negotiation meeting if the issue of compliance is not dealt with and would only return to the negotiation table if the membership audit for the trade union party has been carried out. Parties agreed to disagree, and as a result negotiations for the 2016/17 salaries and conditions of service could not proceed.

BOFEPUSU to sue?
The federation leadership would meet its attorneys tomorrow (Wednesday) to discuss the way forward with respect to this bizarre conduct by the employer party with a view to ponder on the prospects to litigate. As reiterated elsewhere in this statement, the Trade Union Party (BOFEPUSU AJA) has submitted its audited numbers and expect that the secretariat would commence its audit.

Govt, BOPEU appeal
Meanwhile, BOPEU and government, acting in concert have appealed the judgment in which the High Court held that the scope of the PSBC covers all public servants including the non - unionized, members of management and the unionized who are outside the PSBC. The purpose of the appeal and the consequent application for stay of execution is to have the scope of the PSBC restricted only to public servants whose unions are admitted to the PSBC, and as a result, paving way for government to continue to award the 3% and 4% only to public servants whose unions are not affiliates of BOFEPUSU AJA. This explains the conduct of government of refusing to negotiate under the pretext of compliance to the PSBC constitution. They (government) hope that the court would grant them a stay and then continue awarding a 3% and a 4% to the non - unionized and those whose unions are outside PSBC. The conduct of government is a carefully orchestrated plan carried out in conjunction with BOPEU to frustrate and attempt to dismantle the Bargaining Council. This matter of compliance is the one that BOPEU took to court but could not succeed on it and now it is being picked by government in the council. It has to be recalled that this morning (April 18, 2017) the BOPEU GS Comrade Marenga went public that the PSBC meeting would not discuss salary negotiations, but rather would only discuss the issue of compliance. True to his word the employer insisted that the issue of compliance should be part of the meeting's agenda and should be discussed first. This goes a long way to show how BOPEU has become part of the bigger scheme in defeating the bargaining principle in this country. The case of the Stay of Execution of the High Court judgment on scope of the PSBC whereat BOFEPUSU would be facing a combination of government and BOPEU would be heard at 1400hrs at the Court of Appeal before Justice Monametsi Gaongalelwe. This case is important in that if we win it, any increment outside the PSBC remain unlawful and the 3% and 4% remain interdicted, and if we lose it, government would proceed to continue awarding the 3% and 4% to the non - unionised and those whose unions are not members of the PSBC.

Appeal for Patience
Once more we appeal to the General membership to remain focused and trusting bearing in mind that this is just a small fight within a bigger war which the workers of this country would ultimately win. We should stick to the conviction that workers of this country shall not be defeated. We appeal once more to your patience comrades as go through these rather delaying hurdles.

BOFEPUSU Secretary General